The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African Written By Himself

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African Written By Himself first published in 1789 in London, is the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. The narrative is argued to represent a variety of styles, such as a slavery narrative, travel narrative, and spiritual narrative. The book describes Equiano’s time spent in enslavement, and documents his attempts at becoming an independent man through his study of the Bible, and his eventual success in gaining his own freedom and in business thereafter.

Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745 – 31 March 1797), known for most of his life as Gustavus Vassa, was a writer and abolitionist from, according to his memoir, the village of Essaka in modern southern Nigeria. Enslaved as a child in Africa, he was shipped to the Caribbean and sold to a Royal Navy officer. He was sold twice more before purchasing his freedom in 1766. As a freedman in London, Equiano supported the British abolitionist movement. Equiano was part of the abolitionist group the Sons of Africa, whose members were Africans living in Britain and he was a leader of the abolitionism movement in the 1780s. His 1789 autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, helped secure passage of the British Slave Trade Act 1807, which abolished the slave trade and sold so well that nine editions were published during his life. The Interesting Narrative gained renewed popularity among scholars in the late 20th century and remains a useful primary source.

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